Saturday Quiz – February 28, 2015

Welcome to the Billy Blog Saturday Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention over the last seven days. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
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    Friday lay day – The superiority of economists!

    Its the Friday lay day blog and today I briefly discuss economists. What a topic! There is an interesting article just published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives that examines the way economists think of themselves and other social science disciplines. It is a horror story really. Having been immersed in the profession for many years now, I sometimes forget how bad it is. Here is what the study found. The title is a deliberate double entendre. It is more about the way economists think they are superior rather than any absolute finding of superiority.
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      Posted in Friday | 18 Comments

      Don’t mention the war! er the Troika …

      “Don’t mention the war”! was a classic line from the episode – The Germans – in the comedy Fawlty Towers. Basil Fawlty implored his meagre staff to stay silent in case they offended some German tourists staying at his hotel. His attempt at self-censorship failed and led to hilarious consequences. I was reminded of the sketch (see it below) when I was reading the – Greek finance minister’s letter to the Eurogroup (February 24, 2015). Apparently, it is now a case of ‘Don’t mention the Troika’, ‘Don’t mention the Memorandum’ and never ever talk about the ‘Lenders’. The bullying threesome (European Commission, ECB and the IMF) are now known as “the institutions” and the “Memorandum” (the bailout package) is now to be called “The Agreement” and the “Lenders” have been recast as the “Partners”. Okay, and that is progress. The Reform package surely lets the Greeks choose which nasty policy they will implement but it is still nasty. Yes, it “buys them time”. The damage from massive unemployment and poverty eats into people every day. 4 months is a long time when you are on the street starving. And by the time this agreement is done – will the Germans be happy to unleash billions of euros via the European Investment Bank to allow the Greek government to continue running fiscal primary surpluses and keep pumping interest income on outstanding debt into ‘foreign’ coffers? Pigs might fly.
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        Posted in Economics, Eurozone, UK Economy | 29 Comments

        National income continues to be redistributed from wages to profits in Australia

        One of the salient features of the neo-liberal era has been the on-going redistribution of national income to profits away from wages. This feature is present in many nations. As I noted in yesterday’s blog – Employer group demands free labour from Government – employer groups in Australia are upping the ante and demanding that the Government provide them with free labour. It goes like this – the government runs a fiscal austerity campaign, which creates rising unemployment. They then harass the unemployed for daring to apply for the below poverty line income support. If that is not enough, then the private sector demands the Government hand these unemployed workers over to them for free to “make coffee” and other tasks. Its a lovely world that we are living in. Meanwhile there is growing pressure on Australia’s wage setting tribunals to scrap penalty and overtime rates, allegedly because they damage employment and firms are just busting to put more workers on as long as wages drop. The Australian Bureau of Statistics published the latest – Wage Price Index, Australia – for the December-quarter today and we learn that the annual growth in wages is now at the lowest level since the data series began in the June-quarter 1997. The annual hourly wage inflation is now down to 2.5 per cent overall and 2.4 per cent in the private sector. With productivity growth running slightly slower and the annual inflation rate dropping sharply in recent quarters as the overall economy slows down (and oil prices fall), the shift to profits slowed marginally in the December-quarter. But Real Unit Labour Costs (RULC) continued to fall. Further, the long-term trends are still alarming with employment growth flat or negative and unemployment rising.
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          Posted in Labour costs | 21 Comments

          Eurozone Dystopia – Groupthink and Denial on a Grand Scale – Early peek

          Edward Elgar, who is publishing the English language version of the book – to be released in May 2015, sent me the proposed front and back covers for approval last night. You can guess what colours I like. Here they are for your (possible) interest and so you will easily recognise it when you go to the bookshop :-). Whether the German and Italian editions, which are currently in the process of translation, have the same cover will depend on whether EE will give me the rights. But it is likely that the graphic will be the same because I have the rights to that. Anyway, just three pictures in this blog.
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            Posted in Admin, Euro book, Eurozone | 17 Comments

            Employer group demands free labour from Government

            Last week, the peak body representing small business in Australia, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) called on the Federal Government to hand over free labour under the guise that “making coffee” will enhance the skills of the workers. The free labour they want to get their hands on are the unemployed on income support. They want the Government to continue to pay the below-poverty income support but force the recipients to work in small and medium-size businesses “making coffee or serving customers” as a solution to youth unemployment. This is the same group that thinks the pay of the lowest-paid workers (like kitchen hands, cleaners etc) should be cut. They also claim that rising unemployment in Australia is being caused by structural rigidities in the workplace (job protection, occupational health requirements etc). There is a wide-ranging attack on workers going on at the moment. This is just one aspect of this attack. Austerity is forcing more onto the unemployment pile. Once there they are being increasingly subjected to pernicious policy requirements (see yesterday’s blog – Job Services Australia – ineffective and rife with corruption – scrap it!). Then employer groups lobby government to cut wages and conditions and scrap regulative environments that protect workers. It is an important era for social democrats. Either we regain some political equanimity and coherence or we continue to call parties Socialist that impose austerity and talk about being ‘pro-business’, while attacking pensions, wages, and employment.
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              Posted in Economics | 6 Comments

              Job Services Australia – ineffective and rife with corruption – scrap it!

              The ABC – Four Corners – program tonight will highlight the corruption and inefficiency within Australia’s privatised labour market services sector. The program – The Jobs Game – will screen at 20:30 Eastern Standard Time. I participate in the program although the extent of that participation is at the time of writing not known. I did about 2 hours of filming for it in December. Unfortunately, the ABC geo-blocks its iView service which allows Australians to watch past programs via the Internet. If the program is available via YouTube I will post a link. The flavour of the program is summarised in this promotion piece published by the ABC News service today (February 23, 2015) – Government recovers over $41 million worth of false claims after ‘rorting’ of Job Services Australia scheme. The Guardian newspaper will also publish an article based on this blog for tomorrow’s edition (sometime during the day). So the issue is getting out there finally after successive Governments have been trying to hide the issues. After all, its ideological baby is terminally ill and they don’t want to admit that.
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                Posted in Labour costs, Labour Force | 19 Comments

                Saturday Quiz – February 21, 2015 – answers and discussion

                Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’s quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.
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                  Saturday Quiz – February 21, 2015

                  Welcome to the Billy Blog Saturday Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention over the last seven days. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
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                    Friday lay day – Cave in or Trojan Horse?

                    Its the Friday lay day blog and I have a day ahead full of meetings with research partners, other parties and related matters. So I am glad I told myself I wouldn’t write much today. But we have to mention the discussions in Brussels yesterday – extraordinary on all sides. Late last night I read the letter the Greek Minister of Finance wrote to his suited confrères on the Eurogroup committee. I had to read it more than once and convince myself that I was reading it correctly rather than being duped by the hour of the evening and the flight I had taken to where I am today. I read it and read it. Each time I concluded cave in! Sure the words were still a bit like those that a proud, independent people might write to international partners. But once you cut through the defence of self-esteem to the substance the conclusion resonated strongly – the Greek government, for all their talk and bluster, have caved in. Then I read the memo from the German Ministry of Finance in all its Teutonic clarity – Fuck off, we want you to get down on your knees when you cave in not stand there without your ties and suits smiling about it. Amazing really, on all sides.
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                      Posted in Friday | 45 Comments